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Dealing with a car that won’t start can be an incredibly frustrating experience. At the same time, it is something that virtually every driver will have to deal with on occasion, which makes it essential that you know what steps to take whenever you find yourself in this situation. Luckily, you don’t need to be a mechanic to troubleshoot this issue as most of the time the problem is related to one of a few specific areas. With this in mind, here are the things you should check first should you find yourself stuck with a vehicle that won’t start.
One of the very first things you’ll want to check is the battery since a dead or malfunctioning battery is the most common cause of a car that won’t start. Checking to see if your battery is dead is as simple as turning the key on to see if your lights and stereo work. If not, you’ll want to open to hood to first perform a visual inspection of the battery, cables and terminals to ensure everything is properly connected and not corroded. If everything looks as it should, you should then attempt to jump start the vehicle, and if it then starts, this is a sure sign that the problem is related to either your battery or alternator.
If you’re able to turn on your headlights, but not your vehicle, the next step is to troubleshoot other areas since this is a sign that your battery is working properly. Another common cause of a vehicle not starting is a broken or defective ignition switch. To check this, first make sure that your key will turn the ignition switch. If it turns, but the vehicle still won’t start, you might try using a different key or jiggling the key in the switch a few times to see if this takes care of the problem. If so, you’ll definitely want to schedule an appointment with your mechanic to have your ignition switch replaced.
Automatic vehicles feature a neutral safety switch that ensures that the vehicle will only start in park or neutral. If this switch malfunctions, it can also cause the vehicle to not start. To check this, put your foot on the brake and shift the vehicle from park into neutral. If you find that your vehicle will start in neutral, but not park, this is a sign that your neutral safety switch needs to be repaired or replaced.
Your vehicle’s check engine light should come on before you start the vehicle so it’s also important to check to make sure this is so. If you notice that the check engine light doesn’t come on, then this usually indicates that the engine computer isn’t receiving power. In this case, the problem could be related to a blown fuse, broken or loose wire or some other electrical issue that will need to be checked out by a professional mechanic.
In some cases, the problem could be related to something else, such as a broken fuel gauge that doesn’t allow you to see your vehicle is out of gas. Nonetheless, the vast majority of cases will be related to one of the above issues. Therefore, it is important that you take things step by step and check out all of the common causes since it may be possible to fix the problem yourself without having to pay for a visit to the mechanic.